On Friday at 7am we got the bus to Chitwan National Park for a weekend of safariing. The bus ride was over 5 hours and not the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced but it was worth it to get to our destination. All 11 of us were collected from the bus stop in a normal sized jeep, which we just about managed to squeeze ourselves and our baggage into for the journey to the hotel.
The hotel consisted of small lodge rooms and was very jungley which was awesome. As soon as we checked in and had lunch we went for our first walk through the jungle to the government run elephant stables nearby. The military use elephants for patrolling the national park in order to prevent and exterminate poachers. I was reliably informed that they rarely bother trying to arrest poachers, they prefer to use more permanent measures, which I completely agree with.
After seeing a bit of jungle and some elephants we went to the visitor centre to learn about the animals who inhabit the park, including the Bengal Tiger, Mugger Crocodiles, King Cobra, and the Sloth Bear. Our guide then took us to the riverbank to watch the sunset (and a passing croc or two) which was really nice.
The next day we set off for a jungle walk and canoe trip. There were 8 of us in the canoe I was in, plus the “driver” and our guide, and it was utterly fantastic being so close to the water and all the wildlife. We went quite far down the river, passing some crocs and birds, the whole time I had the theme from Jurassic Park in my head, as the scenery would have been perfect with a couple of pterosaurs flying overhead.
We then disembarked for our walk through the jungle. We saw plenty of rhesus monkeys, some Sambar deer, loads of birds, and some footprints belonging to a rhino, a sloth bear, and even a tiger, which was super awesome as apparently even a footprint is quite a rare sight.
We walked for a while, trying to track the rhino that had recently passed through leaving mud over the leaves and footprints on the ground, but to no avail, so we headed for the elephant breeding centre. This was the home of a pair of elephant twins who were born back in 2009 and are the third set to have been born there, but the only surviving pair to date. There was also a 1 month old male calf who was so cute and playful that he was getting a lot of attention from everyone.
After lunch some of us went to the river to watch the elephants being bathed. I chickened out of participating because I had managed to come away for the weekend with only one t-shirt, but it was still really nice to watch, and straight afterwards we all rode elephants through the jungle so I don’t feel like I missed out too much. We even found a 6 year old male rhino standing on the riverbank opposite us, looking stunning, so we stood on some rocks and watched as he swam towards us, apparently unaware of our presence.
Happy with our heffalump ride and rhinocelot encounter we had dinner and went into the village to watch a traditional Tharu dance display. The Tharu are a “tribe” of people who have inhabited Chitwan and the Terai for ages and are known as “forest people”, and apparently have a genetic trait which makes them much less likely to get malaria than other folk, which is cool. So they did some awesome battle dances including one with a fire stick, so that was fantastic, and then at the end they invited people so get on stage, and for some reason I did. I can’t even do the macarena so I dread to think how it looked to everyone in the audience, but luckily by the end of the dance the stage was crammed so I doubt I stood out too much!